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The Comeback Kids?

   by Larry Ness - 06/22/2005

Have the Pistons made believers out of you yet? If not, surely a victory in Game 7 on Thursday night would win over any non-converts!

Detroit entered Game 6 in San Antonio averaging just 81.8 PPG over its last nine playoff road games, including 72.5 PPG in the first two games of this year's Finals on 39 percent shooting (1-of-12 in 3-pointers).

The Pistons beat the Spurs 95-86 on Tuesday night, connecting on 46.8 percent of their shots, including 8-of-17 on three-pointers. In comparison, the Pistons had made a total of just EIGHT three-pointers over the first five games of this series!

The Pistons now have an opportunity to join the 1969 Boston Celtics and the 1977 Portland Trailblazers, as the only teams to win an NBA title after falling behind 0-2 in the Finals!

Detroit would become the first team to do it in the NBA's 2-3-2 format, adopted in 1985. In the previous 20 years, seven teams had returned home with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to win the title in either Game 6 or 7, and all SEVEN captured the title with a Game 6 win!

However, these Pistons just won't go away! It's starting to become a habit. The Pistons fell behind the Orlando Magic 3-1 back in the first round of the 2003 playoffs. They not only came back to win that series in seven games but they did so in style, winning by scores of 98-67, 103-88 (in Orlando) and 108-93. Detroit made it to the Eastern Conference finals that year but were swept by the Nets.

On their way to their first title since 1990 last year, the Pistons avenged that sweep by the Nets. After losing a triple-overtime contest at home in Game 5 of their semifinal series to fall behind New Jersey 3-2, they beat the Nets in Game 6 at New Jersey (81-75) and then 90-69 at home in Game 7.

Detroit's road to the Finals this year has not exactly been a 'cakewalk', either. The Pistons fell behind the Pacers in the semis two games-to-one before rallying. Again, Detroit was impressive in its comeback. Detroit won at Indiana 89-76 in Game 4, won 86--67 in Game 5 at home and then closed out the Pacers in Game 6, 88-79 (at Indiana).

Detroit needed another comeback in the Eastern Conference finals as well. Detroit won Game 4 at home to tie the series at two-all but then after getting blowout in Miami in Game 5, once again found themselves in a 3-2 hole.

Detroit took the series with a 91-66 win in Game 6 at home and an 88-82 win in Game 7 at Miami. However, the team's Game 6 win was overshadowed by the injury to Wade and even the team's win in Game 7 was downplayed somewhat, as Wade was far from 100 percent in the deciding game and Shaq had been plaqued by nagging thigh problems for weeks.

If Detroit can win Thursday however, the team's "comeback credentials" will be written in stone, as well as NBA history. This will be the NBA's first Game 7 in a Finals since 1994 and just the fifth Game 7 since the ABA-NBA merger (1976-77).

The home team has won 12 of the 15 Game 7s in Finals history (80 percent), a winning percentage in keeping with the all-time playoff record of home teams in Game 7's, which stands at 74-17 or 81.3 percent.

However, as we've seen this postseason, things have not gone well for the home teams. While the Finals opened with four straight wins and covers by the home team, road wins by the Spurs in Game 5 and the Pistons in Game 6, have guaranteed that this year's postseason will produce the lowest winning percentage-ever, for home teams in a playoff year!

Since the league adopted its current 16-team playoff format in 1984, only in 1995 have home teams performed worse, going 40-33 (.548). For the 2005 playoffs, home teams will finish either 45-39 .536 (with a Detroit win) or 46-38 (with a San Antonio win), which also rounds off to .548 (like 1995) but falls .0003 short of that year's 40-33 mark. Home teams are 41-40-2 ATS overall in this year's playoffs, with just one game left!

Speaking of the point spread, it hasn't come into play in 19 consecutive games! Going backwards, all six games in the Finals, all 12 games in the conference finals and the Suns' Game 6 win at Dallas in the semifinals, have all seen the SU winner also be the point spread winner!

Will it be any different in Game 7? NBA fans and sports bettors couldn't ask for more. The league's two-best teams, arguably the league's two-best coaches and just one game to to decide it all!


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